The criminals responsible for illegal logging are not just destroying biodiversity but they also threaten the livelihoods of those reliant on forest resources. For example, criminal land clearing can cause landslides and deny forest-dependent communities access to food, medicine and fuel.
Illegal logging contributes directly to climate change, accounting for an estimated 17 per cent of global carbon emissions – more than from all the world’s air, road, rail and shipping traffic combined. The illegal trade of timber is worth billions of dollars every year.
Criminal groups exploit high-value endangered wood species, such as rosewood and mahogany, they launder illegally sowed wood through plantations and agricultural front companies, and they illegally log in protected areas, on indigenous lands or outside concession boundaries.
Crimes can occur at every point in the supply chain – from harvest and transportation, to processing and selling. They are often linked to other illegal activities such as document fraud, corruption and money laundering.
The INTERPOL Forestry Enforcement team supports law enforcement working across the entire timber supply chain to disrupt international criminal networks. We assist member countries by identifying modus operandi and trafficking routes, enhancing intelligence exchange and coordinating cross-border operations and investigations that target networks involved in forestry crimes.
We conduct extensive training and capacity building for law enforcement agencies, with regional and national programmes in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We also help civil society organizations link up with law enforcement to share intelligence on illegal logging and other forestry crimes.
Projects and operations
Project Leaf is our initiative to tackle illegal logging and ensure a truly international net closes around the criminals who are exploiting and destroying the environment. As part of the project, we initiate groundbreaking, intelligence-led law enforcement operations against those involved in illegal logging.
We work to further develop the skills, capabilities and capacities of law enforcement agencies to help countries sustainably manage their natural resources and catch criminals involved in forestry crime.
Operation Amazonas II (2015)
This operation targeted the illegal trade of timber sourced in South and Central America. It resulted in the seizure of approximately USD 47 million worth of timber and the arrest of 328 individuals.
Operation Log (2015)
Operation Log targeted the illegal trade of timber sourced in West Africa. It resulted in the seizure of approximately USD 90 million worth of rosewood and the arrest of 21 people involved in the illegal trade of this species.
Operation Putumayo (2014)
Led by the Peruvian Public Ministry, this operation targeted illegal logging and illegal mining sites along the borders between Peru, Colombia and Brazil. The resulting seizures were estimated at 20,000 m³ of timber, with a value of around USD 31 million.
Forestry Crime Working Group
Our Forestry Crime Working Group is a group of experts who provide strategic advice to improve the effectiveness of law enforcement operations in the forestry sector. The group has initiated several successful operations, including Operation Amazonas II (2015) and Operation Log (2015). It develops guidelines and methodologies, and also organizes training for a range of players in forestry crime enforcement, from government agencies to forest-dependent rural communities.